Metro originally planned to tape-record station announcements on its train cars, which are equipped for that purpose. Fortunately they didn't do so; they permitted train operators to make the announcements on their own.

The result, despite some mangled pronunciations ("Judisherrary Square" is the most common) has been a delight. The operator's voice manages to personalize the subway, sometimes to a greater extent than the more visible -- and distracted -- driver does on a bus.

What brings this to mind is a trip into town yesterday. "Good afternoon," the baritone voice on the intercom began, "this is the Blue Line train to Addison Road." Good afternoon? Yes, and it made the rider smile.

Next station, "Foggy Bottom/GWU, and the George Washington University complex," he said. And beyond it, "Farragut West . . . in the heart of downtown Washington." The latter statement might get you an argument from traditional Washingtonians, but it was a nice touch. (Over inaugural weekend, the operator might tell folks it's as close as any station to the White House.)

Metro management, here's an idea: In San Francisco, transit officials have sponsored a bell-ringing contest for cable car operators. Why not sponsor a station-calling contest for train operators here?